10 Christmas-Crazy Towns
From magical train rides to magnificent parades, these cities and towns are home to some of the biggest and best holiday events in the country. Tour 10 places that celebrate Christmas in a big way.
Photo By: the Durango Area Tourism Office
Photo By: Woodstock Vermont Area Chamber of Commerce
Photo By: Visit Orlando
Photo By: Visit Newport Beach Inc.
Photo By: Bronner's Christmas Wonderland
Photo By: NYC & Company/Dana Perrotti
Photo By: Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau
Photo By: Toby Armstrong and NewOrleansOnline.com
Photo By: Santa's Enchanted Forest
Photo By: The Hollywood Christmas Parade
Nestled between red sandstone bluffs in southwest Colorado, Durango was founded as a railroad town in the 1880s, and its heritage plays a major role in its holiday festivities. Nearly every night from Thanksgiving to Christmas, kids in pajamas line up at Durango's historic depot to board the Polar Express – a real train pulled by a real steam locomotive. During the ride, families sip hot chocolate, sing Christmas carols and visit Santa at the "North Pole," bringing the award-winning book The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg to life.
A picturesque town of just 3,000 sitting on the edge of the Green Mountains in central Vermont, Woodstock turns back time when Christmas comes around. Each year, an equestrian parade with more than 50 horses and riders kicks off Wassail Weekend, a celebration rooted in medieval traditions. Other events during this old-fashioned festival include a yule-log fire, a luminary lighting and a craft fair. Plus, the entire town gets in the Christmas spirit by decorating with traditional wreaths, pine garlands and lights.
The Most Magical Place on Earth gets an extra dose of magic during the holiday season. On 19 select evenings in November and December, guests of Walt Disney World Resort can enjoy Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, a festive celebration featuring an enchanting parade, a holiday-themed fireworks extravaganza and a magical snowfall on Main Street, U.S.A. This favorite special after-hours party takes place inside the Magic Kingdom, one of four theme parks within the resort.
Newport Beach, Calif.
Since 1908, this Orange County city has played host to an over-the-top holiday event: the annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. More than 100 holiday-themed boats – ranging from small canoes to 100-foot yachts – wind 14 miles around Newport Harbor for five consecutive nights. Owners spend months and up to $50,000 decorating their boats with tens of thousands of lights and elaborate Christmas scenes, and prizes range from best lights and animation to best humor and originality. More than one million people turn out to watch the Christmas Boat Parade every year.
Three times bigger than the average Walmart, the world's largest Christmas superstore can be found in Frankenmuth, about 90 miles from Detroit. Two million people from all over the world visit Bronner's Christmas Wonderland each year to browse the store's 6,000 ornaments, 100 styles of Christmas trees, 500 varieties of lights and more than 100 nativity scenes. Unlike many Christmas stores that shut down after the holiday season, Bronner's is open 361 days a year, closing only for New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, Easter and – yes – Christmas.
No list of Christmas-crazy towns would be complete without New York City. While ice skating in Rockefeller Center and seeing the Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular are two of the most popular ways to experience Christmas in the Big Apple, the festive sights and sounds are all around. The origami tree at the American Museum of Natural History, the laser light show at Grand Central Station and The Nutcracker Ballet at Lincoln Center are just a few of NYC's other holiday offerings.
Located about 60 miles from Philadelphia, this town in the heart of Pennsylvania Amish Country is home to the National Christmas Center, a 20,000-square-foot museum dedicated to preserving and sharing Christmas memories past and present, near and far. The museum's 15 exhibits are chockfull of hundreds of thousands of Christmas items, including more than 10,000 Santas, 500 one-of-a-kind nativity scenes and thousands of toys. More than 40,000 people visit the museum each year.
While the Big Easy may be best known for its extravagant Mardi Gras parades, the city also celebrates the winter holidays in a big way. Every year for more than half a century, young and old have come together in Jackson Square to sing Christmas carols by candlelight in front of the beautifully illuminated St. Louis Cathedral. For the people of New Orleans, this heartwarming tradition brings home the true meaning of Christmas.
This sizzling city may be short on snow, but not on holiday cheer. Miami is home to Santa's Enchanted Forest, the world's largest Christmas-themed amusement park with more than 100 rides, shows, games and attractions. Around one million people visit every year to admire three million lights, marvel at a 92-foot Christmas tree, take a romantic stroll down Mistletoe Lane or watch Santa enter a death-defying motorcycle cage. Thrill-seeking Christmas lovers will feel right at home on the park's roller coasters and other rides.
For 80 years, The Hollywood Christmas Parade has brought a star-studded holiday spectacle to the heart of Los Angeles. Floats, balloons, marching bands and equestrians make their way down Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, drawing thousands of spectators every year. The event always promises plenty of celebrity guests; past grand marshals of the parade have included Larry King, Bob Barker and Magic Johnson.